Buffalo Sabres draft pick J.T. Compher (University of Michigan) was among 26 players named today to the preliminary roster for the defending-champion United States team that will compete at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. This year’s tournament takes place from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden.
The 26 players will participate in a training camp Dec. 15-18 at the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, with preparations continuing in Angelholm, Sweden, before the final 23-man roster is announced on Dec. 23. The U.S. will play three games before the start of the tournament, including Dec. 17 against Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., and contests in Angelholm vs. Finland on Dec. 20 and Sweden on Dec. 22.
Compher joins defenseman Nikita Zadorov as the only two Sabres prospects currently on their country’s official preliminary World Junior roster. Zadorov, currently playing with the OHL’s London Knights, was one of 29 players announced on Tuesday for Russia’s roster. With five points in five games since being returned to junior on November 19, the hulking Zadorov should be a lock to anchor the Russian blueline in Sweden.
Rochester defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is eligible to play for Finland, but a recent injury could deter his participation. Ristolainen was sucker-punched in the head by Lake Erie’s Mitchell Heard in the Amerks’ 5-3 win last Friday, and has already been ruled out of the team’s next three games with what head coach Chadd Cassidy has termed as an “upper body injury.” On Tuesday, Ristolainen told Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle the Sabres have asked if he would like to play in the World Juniors, and his answer was yes.
There are also question marks surrounding Buffalo’s two remaining tournament-eligible prospects. Mikhail Grigorenko wasn’t included on Russia’s 29-man preliminary roster, but he could play if the Sabres decide to release him for the event. Gustav Possler appeared to be a lock for Team Sweden early in the season, however he’s now missed eight straight games with a knee injury. Possler is playing for MODO of the Swedish Hockey League, and is tied for the team lead in scoring with 13 points (8+5) in 18 games.